EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who represents the 27-nation European Union alliance, announced $250 million in assistance to Moldova as Russia has cut gas supplies to the country amid a growing energy crisis. At a news conference, von der Leyen asserted that “European solidarity with the Republic of Moldova is unshakable.” File photo by European Union/ EP/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The European Union has announced $250 million in assistance to Moldova amid an escalating energy crisis in the country made worse by a Russian blockade on gas supplies that serves to leverage its war in Ukraine.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who represents the 27-nation alliance, announced the aid package in Moldova Thursday at a news conference in the capital of Chisinau, asserting "European solidarity with the Republic of Moldova is unshakable."
"Today we increase our support in the face of the acute energy crisis caused by Russia," she said after emerging from a meeting with the Moldovan President Maia Sandu. "We assure you that we will do our best to help you through this crisis."
Russia has significantly reduced natural gas shipments throughout Europe in an effort to pressure nations who side with Ukraine.
As a result, Moldova -- a former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people -- will receive $200 million in grants and loans to help shore up the country's fuel reserves in the coming months, which von der Leyen called "energy security" as Moldova is entirely dependent on Russia for its natural gas.
Another $50 million in budgetary support has been set aside for Moldova's poorest citizens, while von der Leyen also vowed to "help mobilize other international donors," saying that additional energy resources would be determined at EU meetings later this month in Paris.
Moscow recently choked off half the gas supply to the country -- which is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine's southwest border -- due to Moldova's alliance with its northern neighbor throughout the conflict.
The aid package arrives at a critical time as Russia's fuel blockade threatens to inflict the most pain during the cold months of winter, when millions of lives could be at stake.
On Wednesday, Moldova's Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said she planned to ask the EU for $450 million, fearing "very real possibility" that Russia's energy giant Gazprom would move soon to shut down the gas pipeline entirely.
"The worst case scenario is that a full disconnection happens," she told Politico.
Sandu said the retaliatory moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin amounted to "political blackmail" amid one of the country's worst-ever economic shortages.
"We are facing the worst energy crisis in three decades," Sandu said. "A crisis in which energy resources are being used as weapons against democracy."